Uniting spirit keys Harrington's rise at Edelman

After 18 years of service at Edelman, Matthew Harrington will become US president and CEO, effective July 1.

After 18 years of service at Edelman, Matthew Harrington will become US president and CEO, effective July 1.

Though national budgets and strategy await with the start of the fiscal year and his new role, he will continue to serve as president of the Eastern region and global corporate practice chair.

"While my background is really in the corporate, financial, and issues arenas," he says, "almost my [entire] career has been recognizing the intersection with the consumer and the opportunity that comes for companies not living in a silo and not isolating stakeholders, but bringing them together."

He cites an example from his first days at the firm. In 1991, Harrington worked on an account for Fleer, the baseball-card and bubble-gum company. Edelman's consumer team had been hired for a project to assist Fleer on restoring Central Park's basketball courts.

"We invited the investment community to what was ultimately a consumer-press event," he recalls. "It was a great opportunity for management to showcase their marketing prowess. It had enormous impact. It wasn't something people did a lot back then."

Harrington has remained keenly aware of a need to approach business holistically, with the dynamic between clients and stakeholders, who once remained in isolation from each other, at the forefront.

During the business launch of Xbox in the late '90s, "I knew that the developer community was job one, but you had to speak to consumers from that very first announcement in 1999," he says. "We built all our programming that way, in concentric circles of developer, business community, and consumers. That fluidity and opportunity to integrate, I think we are still in the early cusp of [that]."

Crisis management has become another Harrington staple. He has led efforts for many newsworthy events, such as the Odwalla apple juice recall in 1996 and, more recently, the Duke University lacrosse team incident of 2006, where a stripper falsely accused three players of raping her.

Harrington headed up Edelman's team, hired by Duke to help address the concerns that applications would drop after the litany of bad PR, as well as the slightly separate issue of community relations. The results pleased the client.

"The proof is in the pudding," says Jon Burness, SVP for public affairs and government relations at Duke. "[That year was] the second highest we'd ever had of applications. This year, continuing on [their] work, we had a record number of applications. I've spent enough time with [Matt] to know he's very smart and very savvy."

Agency worldwide CEO Richard Edelman knows Harrington's substance helps him excel in all roles, past, present, and future.

"It's Matthew's decency and integrity," says Edelman. "That's a pretty important [trait] in professional services' reputation."

Edelman also cites Harrington's dedication to client service, combined with his ability to grasp the inextricable link between a brand and its corporate reputation, with accounts ranging from Starbucks to Charles Schwab.

Greg Gable, corporate communications VP for Charles Schwab, has worked with Edelman for more than 10 years on initiatives, such as general corporate visibility and product launches.

"One of the overriding features with [Harrington] is [the same thing] you want in PR agency support," he says, "Somebody who is constantly thinking about your best interests and what the agency can do to support the business."

Matt Harrington

July 2002-2008:
President, Eastern Region, Edelman

April 1991-present:
Various posts at Edelman: He started in the financial deparment in NYC(until June 1993). Supsequent stints were corporate SVP in San Francisco; GM in SF; Western region president; and president of the NY office.

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